If your kitchen is looking a little sad, or you want to give the space an instant refresh, a kitchen cabinet painting project is a cost-effective way to completely transform the room. Use this painting guide to learn about the most common mistakes to avoid when painting kitchen cabinets, from prepping, to painting, and drying. 

What to Know Before Starting a Kitchen Cabinet Painting Project  

Here are 11 of the most common painting mistakes and how to avoid them, so you can paint your kitchen cabinets like a pro and enjoy the results for years to come!

1. Not Testing Your Paint Color 

Choosing a color can be the hardest part of all. Your cabinets occupy so much of your kitchen that choosing the wrong color can affect your enjoyment of this space, which you likely spend a lot of your time in. The best way to be sure you have the right color is to put it to the test. Paint the inside of a cupboard door, and leave it open for a day or two to see how the color looks at different times of the day. If you decide you don’t like it, choose another color and test it on the inside of a different door.   

If you’re looking for inspiration for choosing paint colors for your kitchen, read our blog post, “4 Ideas for Painted Kitchen Cabinets.” 

2. Skipping Painting Prep  

Proper painting preparation is crucial when it comes to painting kitchen cabinets. Your cabinets are exposed to a lot of wear and tear, grease, and moisture, making them a challenging surface to paint. Failure to prep the cabinets properly can result in your brand-new paint peeling, chipping, or cracking. With adequate preparation, including cleaning, sanding, and priming, you can ensure that the paint adheres properly to the surface and lasts for years to come. 

3. Not Prepping Correctly   

Different types of cabinet materials require different preparation methods and painting techniques. Failing to consider the material type can lead to poor adhesion, uneven coverage, and premature paint failure. The most conducive type of cabinet material to paint is wood. If your cabinets are not wood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), or compressed (faux) wood, you’re likely in for much more prep work. Laminates, plastic coated, and other shiny materials can be painted, but not without additional prepping to ensure that the paint adheres. Those types of surfaces, and wooden cabinets with decorative accents might be best left to the professionals.   

4. Insufficient Area Prep 

Of course, you’ll want to make sure to properly tape off the cabinets and properly clear or cover everything in the kitchen to avoid spilling paint on anything. It takes a little extra time, but it’s a lot faster than trying to remove paint from places it shouldn’t be later.  

5. Leaving the Doors and Hardware On 

It might seem leaving the hardware and doors on your kitchen cabinets will save time, but it can actually make the project much more complicated than it needs to be. Professional painters know that this method invites trouble, and they will always remove the doors and hardware before painting kitchen cabinets. If you try to paint cabinets without taking the doors and hardware off first, there’s always a chance of getting paint on the hinges or having a buildup on the edges that will interfere with the proper use of the door. If you remove the doors, you can get better, more even coverage, and keep all your hinges and other headwear clean and paint-free.  

Pro tip: Label the inside of the doors and put the hardware for each door in a baggy with a corresponding label to avoid any problems when you’re putting them all back together when you’re finished. 

6. Painting Over Grease  

Kitchen cabinets can accumulate a lot of grease. It becomes airborne in the steam from the stove and settles on their surface. The natural oils from fingers can also build up over time around the handles and edges. When you clean the cabinets for painting, you may need to use a degreaser to remove this stubborn layer, or it will interfere with proper paint adhesion.  

7. Over-Sanding, or Not Sanding  

While it is important to sand every surface before painting, it’s not necessary or advisable to sand all the way down to the wood. In addition to sanding to prep the surface for painting, it’s a good idea to lightly sand between each coat to smooth out any areas of over-coverage and remove any bubbles.   

8. Using the Wrong Paint Applicator 

As with any project, using the right tools is important. Before you begin, make sure you have all the right paint applicators for every stage and section of the project. Using an old or inferior brush can cost you. Spending the money on decent brushes will pay off in the look you’ll achieve and the ease of application. A brush that’s too big can leave streaks, and a chiseled sponge applicator can be a game changer in the tight spots. A mini roller, followed by a good brush can even be a good combination for the front of the cabinets.  

9. Skipping the Primer Coat 

The best way to ensure even paint coverage, especially when changing the color of your kitchen cabinets from dark to light, is using a primer coat. This coat will have a different finish than your topcoat and serves to seal the surface, conceal stains, and provide an even, welcoming canvas for your finish coats.  

10. Using the Wrong Paint Finish 

All that hard work won’t last if you use the wrong paint finish. Without a semi-gloss or gloss paint finish, your kitchen cabinets could become dingy and stained rather quickly. For an easy-to-clean, lasting finish, use a durable, moisture-resistant, semi-gloss or gloss finish in the kitchen. Learn more about sheens by reading our blog, “Types of Paint Finishes and Your Guide to Picking the Perfect One.”  

11. Rushing the Drying Time 

Giving your kitchen cabinets a facelift can be very exciting. You may be anxious to see the finished product. However, rushing the drying time can result in cupboard doors that stick and paint damage during reassembly. Waiting for a minimum of 48 hours before reattaching the cabinet doors and hardware is recommended, so the paint has time to fully cure. You will also want to handle the doors with care during the first week, avoiding slamming or scratching them. This will ensure that the paint has sufficient time to fully harden and provide long-lasting durability. 

Avoid All Painting Mistakes—Hire the Professionals at Timmins for Your Kitchen Cabinets 

With such an exhaustive list of things that can go wrong, you might want to avoid all those challenges, and leave this project to professionals. When you choose Timmins Painting for your residential paint project you are guaranteed the highest level of professionalism and attention to detail. Our experienced residential painters in Sonoma County have been painting for more than 25 years and won’t settle for anything less than perfection for your home.